The title of this post does not refer to how quickly you paint, many artists (myself included) are not slow painters. I do my best work when I use quick, confident brush strokes and a limited number of colors. The application of the paint itself is not a drawn-out, labor-intensive process. It’s energetic and fun, but that’s because by the time I am doing a real painting (as opposed to a study), I’ve already done 2 or 3 studies of the subject in preparation for the final. In other words, I’ve done the homework and studied the subject before taking the test. Does this cut into my ability to be spontaneous? NO! It gives me the confidence and familiarity with the subject (and I use this term loosely since I approach all subjects in a similar manner from the start) so that I can be expressive when painting the piece on canvas.
In addition to doing studies in pastel or charcoal before starting a piece on canvas, I also carefully select a palette that suits whatever “mission” I have in creating a particular piece. Which reds, blues and yellows will work best in this particular painting? What are the colors present in the subject and which ones in my box will get the job done most efficiently? Do I need to introduce secondaries from the tube for a bolder look, or do I want to go in the opposite direction and stay with an extremely limited palette? Do I even want to use color at all?
I do the same thing when deciding what medium to use? Will acrylics or oils be better suited? Do I want a more graphic and contemporary feeling, or a softer more impressionistic look? We all have a range when it comes to style, but our work should look consistent when multiple pieces are displayed together. Keeping a consistent color palette, subject or theme is good idea in general, and key to a successful exhibit of multiple works.
If you are frustrated with your paintings more often than not, I would highly recommend taking the time before hand to do studies, plan your color palette, choose your subject and medium. Do this in an unhurried, relaxed manner. Think logically, not emotionally, and explore all the possibilities. Your studies are the time you take before hand to learn about the painting you are going to paint, so in a way, you are learning about something that does not yet exist. Explore all possibilities and don’t be afraid to fail, if you try something and it doesn’t work, take a different approach. Stay off the negative track and don’t start second guessing your skill, that is unproductive and won’t give you any answers. The answers are found in practice and planning, take the time to work out the idea in sketches, studies, color and compositional planning. Choose your medium carefully and have a clear understanding of what you want your painting to say. You’ll enjoy the process of putting the paint on the canvas, and can paint quickly and confidently, if you’ve done your homework first!